A rare away report from this blog, given that its USP is home games only (along with brutal honesty and brutal flatulence). I’ve said before that watching on the telly isn’t quite the same as being there but our performance yesterday didn’t need the sort of close up analysis that being there would have afforded (though if I had been there I suspect the beer would have put analysis beyond me anyway). Very simply three defensive errors equalled three goals, no points and a bit of a downer on my fireworks bbq.
I can only imagine Sami tripped over a black cat and fell head first in to a mirror before the game, such was the level of his luck. His side did many of the things we’ve been crying out for. Calde was given a much needed rest having run like a trouper in the previous four. Holla came back in, CMS was restored to the bench and COG wasn’t even in the squad. What’s more, earlier that day, came the news that fans favourite Elliot Bennett was back for a month. Initially we seemed tighter at the back and we had more of the ball and more of the territory. It was an entertaining and open game, perfect for watching with a hotdog and a glass of Zinfandel which was lucky, because that’s exactly what I was doing. The Boy who had put his new replica shirt on for the occasion looked hopeful.
Then, inexplicably, Bournemouth were ahead. Defensive howler number one took place as Greer, on his own and under no pressure, managed to head a Simon Francis cross straight in to his own net. It was an awful and glaring error and it gave Bournemouth an undeserved lead. But wait, what’s this? Within minutes we were level with a goal from a striker! Colunga finished neatly after being put clean through by a wonderful ball by Teixeira. It was the sort of link up the two had threatened during the Charlton home game but rarely since. We were back on terms.
Again this didn’t last long. Bournemouth retook the lead just before half time. At first glance it was a piece of acrobatic brilliance from Pugh who twisted to strike the ball home, aided by a slight deflection. However the one thing you get watching at home that you don’t at the ground is instant replays. The Bournemouth player was able to execute such a finish because he was unmarked and in ten yards of space. He had the freedom of the whole back post portion of the penalty area. Once again our defenders had switched off.
By this point Calde was already back in the fray, an innocuous looking clash doing for Aaron Hughes who had replaced him. It looked like a bad ankle injury and he was stretchered from the ground.
Even then we managed to claw it back. In the second half a route one kick and flick put Baldock through and to his delight he finished perfectly. 2-2. Had I mentioned it was open and entertaining? Boy was it. But we really needed to not make another defensive mistake.
Oh dear. Oh deary, deary me. Bournemouth launched a rare attack but it looked to have petered out, Callum Wilson being forced wide to the sort of angle that only Joe Bennett can score from, when Dunk basically assaulted him for no reason. It was one of those challenges that could have been made in a bad Hollywood movie in slow motion as the hero stood up yelling “nooooooooooooo”, voice lowered by its slowing down. So stupid was it that actual village idiots took a break from chewing straw to wonder if their position was safe. Naturally Bournemouth tucked it away.
And that was it. Everything we had hoped for going forward came off. Two goals, both from the strikers. Lovely, neat, entertaining interplay. Good ball retention. Not too much getting caught on the break. The faults of the Rotherham and Middlesboro games corrected. Only to be replaced with other, more serious faults at the back. Like I said, poor Sami. In one way this strengthened his hand and in another it made the case for the P45 even stronger.
Here’s where we are. One point and one place above relegation. A manager who has now gone twelve games without a win in both his current job and his previous one. It’s like watching a junior programmer trying to fix a badly designed system, Fix this bit here and something goes wrong over there as a result. Fix that and something else pops out. When the system works the players let you down and when the players try the system fails.
We go in to Tuesday’s game with Wigan – a must win – with a loan keeper who can’t play (and whose lack of familiarity with the centre backs may have contributed to the own goal), Bruno maybe out injured (we can’t be sure because the club won’t tell you any more), Hughes definitely out injured, Greer and Dunk a card each from suspension and Calderon exhausted. And it’s our defence we need to work on now. Make no mistake, from now until May we are in a relegation battle. Are Hyypia and Jones equipped to lead us over the top? And do they have the luck?